Friday, January 25, 2013

John Stinson's No. 2 - featured tune for Clayville & Prairieland sessions, Feb. 2-5

We'll be continuing our beginners' dulcimer lessons from 10 a.m. to noon next Saturday, Feb. 2, in Clayville Historic Site, at Pleasant Plains on Ill. 125, and holding the first of our first Tuesday sessions (please note schedule change) of the Prairieland Strings from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 5, at Atonement Lutheran Church, 2800 West Jefferson (Ill. 97-125) in Springfield. I want to introduce a new tune to the beginners at Clayville and re-introduce it to the first Tuesday group. The tune is called "John Stinson's No. 2." It's easy to play, and it's a lot of fun.

So if you've been coming to the beginners' sessions at Clayville, you'll know the tune and this will be your golden opportunity to start taking part in our Prairieland Strings jam sessions. Please join us.

Odd name, isn't it? John Stinson's is an Irish reel that's migrated to the United States and been kind of taken over by the dulcimer world. It's a lovely tune, and it has an interesting history. But first, here are links to the mountain dulcimer tablature we'll use and to a couple of YouTube clips to give you an idea how it's played.

DAD tab by Zukerman and a MIDI file are available from the Mountain Dulcimer Association of Huntsville, Ala., at (scroll down to "John Stinson's #2" and click on the tab link). Zuckerman is a member of the group, which has an active learners' program.

The first of our YouTube clips features a mountain dulcimer group called the Flat Mountain Dulcimers of eastern North Carolina, where any mountains indeed would be flat! Watch the players' left hands. The woman on our left looks like she's playing the same chords that we'll learn, especially in the B part of the tune. Watch both dulcimer players, though. You'll notice they don't chord the same way. Dulcimers aren't standardized, and our hands aren't either!

The second version shows what the tune sounds like in Ireland.

This performance is by a couple of players all the way around the world from Ireland, Anna (on fiddle) and Ryan (on Irish bouzouki) of Tasmania, the island off the coast of Australia. It's the first tune in the set. (The second is "The Otter's Holt," or nest, sometimes considered a variant of John Stinson's No. 2.) We can't match the ornamentation of an Irish traditional fiddle player on the dulcimer, but if you watch Ryan on bouzouki, you'll hear a similar chord progression to ours in the B part.

Some of us in Prairieland Strings learned it in 2011 (click here for more YouTube clips, including one by mountain dulcimer wizard Bing Futch and hammered dulcimer player Rick Thum of Missouri). There's also information about the song's origin.

The tune is traditional Irish. It's called John Stinson's -- or John Stenson's -- No. 2 after a button box (accordion) player named John Stenson of County Sligo in the west of Ireland, who collected it. It appeared on Irish fiddle master Kevin Burke's CD If the Cap Fits in a set of reels with "The Star of Munster" and John Stenson's No. 1. Burke played it in A, and most string bands do, too. Mountain dulcimer players generally tab it out in D, but some play it in A.

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